Oprah over the years: Locals with connections to the show

(Photo: YDR file; Helen Myers watches her ‘Oprah’ appearance in February 2008 at her son Tate’s home with him and his daughter.)
Millions tuned into her talk show, joined her book club and longed for her favorite things.
Today, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” wraps after 25 years. Watch Winfrey’s final show at 4 p.m. on WGAL-TV (Ch. 8) and WBAL-TV (Ch. 11). In the meantime, share your Oprah memories and read about some local people who have had a connection to the show:
December 2009: Stefanie Eckhart of East Manchester Township collected 22 backpacks filled with toys and essential goods, as well as food and other items for the York Rescue Mission. The idea to lend a helping hand stemmed from Winfrey’s “Big Give.” Eckhart said she figured if Winfrey could gather the resources to help people, so could she.
May 2009: York native Hal Colston appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to talk about two programs he started to fight poverty. In the years since he started The Good News Garage in Burlington, Vt., Colston was featured in numerous national publications and was profiled on the “Today Show.” The Good News Garage, which Colston founded in 1996, provided cars for low-income people. In 2004, Colston left to start NeighborKeepers, which attempts to broaden the community dialogue through circles of support, in an effort to lift families out of poverty one at a time.
April 2008: Uncle Jim’s Red wrigglers appeared on national TV when Winfrey featured it on an Earth Day segment. Jim Shaw raised worms on his North Codorus Township farm and filled orders for folks as far away as Alaska and the Virgin Islands. With more people interested in organic gardening, composting and Earth-friendly living, business boomed.
March 2008: Helen Myers of York Township signed the required papers and picked up her new car at York Volkswagen. Tiffany Wieczorkowski had written a letter to Winfrey about her grandmother, Myers, and how Myers deserved a Valentine’s Day surprise. Wieczorkowski wrote that Myers had always wanted another Volkswagen Beetle like the one she got in 1967. Winfrey invited Myers and her granddaughter to be on the Feb. 14, 2008, episode, but the VW was a secret until Winfrey revealed it.
Read more on the jump.

December 2007: Seven students at New Hope Academy Charter School in York were selected to become “O Ambassadors,” a program sponsored by Winfrey’s Angel Network and Free The Children. The program connects students in North America to others around the world. They work toward the UN Millennium Development Goals to address problems such as poverty and hunger.
April 2007: Judy Woodard of York took a trip to Chicago with her daughter, Tamika, of Los Angeles. The plan was to do lots of sightseeing and see “The Color Purple,” which was Tamika’s Mother’s Day gift to Judy. The day they were scheduled to leave, Tamika told her they’d be attending a taping of the “Oprah” show. The audience members went home with more than $1,000 worth of goodies, including a 4GB iPod Nano, Beyonce and Robin Thicke concert tickets, Coach sunglasses and more.
October 2001: Winfrey invited Cindy Carpenter-Spies to appear on a show for a feature on “Inside Afghanistan.” Carpenter-Spies’ trips to film oppressed women began in 2000 when she happened upon a public television program about women in Afghanistan. The Los Angeles filmmaker, who grew up in Fairview Township, said it was news to her. She began gathering information. A planned trip to New York to interview an expert on the topic morphed into an invitation to visit Afghanistan to see for herself.
June 2001: More than 60 Maryland foster care children reunite with their siblings in New Freedom. Camp to Belong, a Colorado-based nonprofit, expanded its summer camp program to Maryland with a grant from “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” The children visited Penn State York and went horseback riding and swimming. The show’s television crew — minus Winfrey herself — visited the camp.
January 2000: Loretta Claiborne appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Winfrey talked about “The Loretta Claiborne Story,” which aired that month on ABC’s “The Wonderful World of Disney.” Claiborne regularly participated in Special Olympics sports, including running, bowling, basketball and ice skating. She has been inducted into the halls of fame of the William Penn High School Alumni, York Sports and the Pennsylvania Special Olympics.
December 1999: Winfrey mentioned Don Webb’s York Township Christmas display on a show touting “The Best Holiday Ideas Through the Years.” The display attracted thousands of visitors between Thanksgiving and the first week of January. In 1998, he collected two pickup beds full of donated food and about $1,500 in monetary donations.
March 1999: Tammy Zambito of York visited Winfrey’s website. She scrolled through a list of possible show topics when one caught her eye: Do you and your spouse share housework 50-50? She typed up a humorous response about herself and her husband, Richard, and sent it off. A producer from the show called and invited the couple to be guests on the show.
September 1997: Odell Dowling saw a newspaper ad calling for extras for the film “Beloved,” based on Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. Dowling was one of hundreds of local people who turned out for auditions in Lancaster in August 1997. The movie, starring Winfrey and Danny Glover, was filmed primarily in Philadelphia, but was partly shot in Lancaster County. Two days of filming were done at the Landis Valley Museum in Manheim Township. Dowling was selected to drive a wagon.

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